There is no denying that November has become a symbolic month for masculinity and both a reminder and opportunity to celebrate men! Take ‘Movember’ for example, the Movember Foundation encourages men across the country to sport a moustache in a bid to raise funds for the charity. It then invests donations raised into funding the research, support and treatment of three of the biggest health issues men face: testicular cancer, prostate cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention. They are the only charity of its kind working on a global scale, and by 2030 they will “reduce the number of men dying prematurely by 25%” (movember.com).
International Men’s Day is also celebrated during November (Sunday 19th) and aims to focus on men’s and boys’ health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting male role models. It seems fitting then that in Australia last week, the country overwhelmingly voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage – a historic victory for the LGBT communities and a giant leap forward for promoting gender equality.
Our very own Forever F.I.T. Ambassador Ben Cohen is an active supporter of mental health awareness and anti-bullying campaigns, utilising his position as world champion in a very masculine sport to bridge the gap between the gay and straight communities, to help break down gender stereotypes. In 2011 Ben launched his own charity, The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, which supports and encourages people to stand up against discrimination and bullying whether it be at school, the workplace, in sport or online. Ben revealed that his drive to set up the charity comes out of tragic circumstances – his dad was fatally assaulted seventeen years ago whilst he was protecting someone else.
It is a sad and worrying statistic that up to 50% of children and many adults in the UK say they have experienced bullying. People who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are even more likely to be bullied. People who are bullied feel disconnected, leading to a sense of isolation and loneliness. They are often wary of others and lack quality friendships. They can suffer from low self-esteem, poor achievement, an increased risk of depression or anxiety and, in extreme cases, a higher risk of suicide (standupfoundation-uk.org). So how does the foundation help to tackle this social problem? It aims to raise awareness of the long-term, damaging effects of bullying by connecting communities and raising funds to support those doing real-world work to eradicate bullying.
As well as focusing on male mental health, another key concept of International Men’s Day is the promotion of positive male role models who can lead by example for future generations. When we asked Ben who his role model had been growing up, he had no hesitation in telling us that it was his dad. “My dad was a fantastic role model who taught me strong, core values which I have carried throughout my life. I come from a very loving family who had a close and diverse group of friends, and I’ve always been shown the importance of expressing kindness to others. When my dad passed away I was able to channel my anger and focus on setting up a foundation which would create a lasting legacy in his memory.”
A further focus of this international awareness day is aiming to improve gender relations and gender discrimination. We spoke to Ben about how he felt this could be tackled and his answer was education. He went on to explain that by educating people from a young age and encouraging people to understand the differences amongst human beings, we can help to unite all communities and genders.
As we celebrate men and boys this month, have a think about which males have been the most influential and positive role models in your life and let us know in the comments section below.